In my experience, the question what is NLP ( neuro linguistic programming ) never fails to generate a rather splendid array of explanations and evaluations ranging from “its an art and a science.”, “learning how to learn” and even “its that dodgy mind control stuff”.
To move toward answering the question ‘what is NLP?’ it is useful to make a distinction right now; What NLP is is very different to what coded NLP applications can be used to do.
Pick some technology, metallurgy for example, an understanding or knowledge of how metals respond, react and so forth. The application of this knowledge, what can be done, can be used to make, lets say functional heart valves or swords. The technology is different to the application of the technology.
NLP is a ‘technology’ created in the 1970’s, initially by Richard Bandler and immediately after ( before it was called NLP I guess ) by John Grinder. I understand the following ‘quote’ to have originated from Bandler, Here I paraphrase
“NLP is an attitude of wanton curiosity and methodology that leaves behind a trail of techniques”
Grinder states “NLP is modelling” or even more concisely from Grinders mother talking about what her son does “Monkey see monkey do”
So, NLP according to the creators ( and one of the creator’s mom ) is the process of modelling. So what is modelling?
Modelling is the activity whos end goal is the assimilation and aquasition of a particular skill set of some person ( or persons ) in a particular context. In a nut shell NLP is the systematic process of acquiring a new set of competencies or skills.
There are two fundamental or basic modelling processes
Analytical modelling – where we use our own knowledge and skills to ‘work’ out or analyse using questioning and physical copying how an exemplar ( model subject ) does what they do. This can be likened to a deductive process once the skills are identified. This deduction is naturally very heavily influenced by the modellers own life experiences and abilities ( beliefs, values, knowledge ).
Unconscious Uptake modelling – where the model is copied ( monkey see monkey do ) physically and neurologically without any accompanying ‘analysis’. To be in a state of ‘I don’t know what I am doing – just copying’. This is the way babies learn to walk and talk. Think about it. After ‘copying’ the exemplars behaviours, the model is tested in a parallel context of application.
Both models are ‘tried and tested’ in parallel application contexts. If the application of the model ( very often a set of behaviours ) gives the same class of results you have the model. You can then code the model for others to use.
The coded processes of NLP
Rapport, The Meta Model, The Milton Model, The Swish Pattern, The Fast Phobia Cure, Predicates, Perceptual Positions… and of course modelling and the patterns within the patterns…
When I did my first NLP practitioner, I thought NLP was the set of processes I learned but these are what came out of the early modelling work ( perhaps before it was even known as modelling ) of Bandler and Grinder, and it is often – and I think understandably so – taught, as NLP. The learning of NLP process is in my experience is of far greater initial value than the modelling skills, they are almost a pre-requisite because you need to be able to apply certain NLP patterning really well to model really well do you not? So, but how do babies do it then?
And, I would like to leave you with a question.
So, What is NLP?